Despite my best intentions, I still have days when I miss my meditation practice. I’m on point for a while and then something happens- I’m busy with school, going out and getting in too late, etc.- that I lose the momentum. So, when we received the assignment in my cognitive behavioral therapy class to design a behavior change experiment for ourselves, I knew what my goal would be- to meditate for at least 15 minutes (hopefully more) at least once a day.
I completed all the preliminary assignments- comparing the days I do meditate to those that I don’t, writing down the excuses I make for not meditating and listing the benefits of a daily practice. Finally, as required, I set up some rules for myself. For instance, if I returned home and had not yet meditated, I would complete my meditation practice before turning on my computer. I also provided myself with a tangible reward that I would receive only if I fulfilled my goal at the end of our three week recording period. Honestly, I found this all a bit silly, but being that I had to complete this project for class anyway, I figured I might as well work towards a goal that would be worth my time.
We wrapped up the project a couple of weeks ago, and to my surprise, it worked! What I found was that it wasn’t so much the rules or rewards I set up for myself (though they were of some help), as it was my own stubbornness to not fail at a completely reasonable and attainable goal that kept me on track. And even though I had made this intention on countless other occasions, something about giving it a little more structure- actually writing down all my lame excuses and the practice of keeping a recording device to track my meditation times- proved really helpful.
So, if anyone is having trouble committing to a daily practice, school assignment or not, providing yourself with a little more structure might not be a bad idea. Believe me, I’m not generally one for rules, but I was quite pleased with the change I saw over the three weeks. It also helped me prove to myself that there is ALWAYS 15 minutes I can find in any busy day to sit. I think finding the right balance of discipline and acceptance is key- the discipline to stay focused and the acceptance to realize that we’re human and might miss an occasional day, but to not use that as an excuse to derail our practice.
How does everyone else stay focused? Any ideas for those of us struggling with solidifying our daily practices?